COVID as Our Ally

The struggle against Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the cause of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is usually described in military terms. We are in a “battle, even a war against an insidious enemy. We must marshal the forces of medical science for a campaign to “defeat” this “enemy” of humankind. This plague challenges, if not our very existence, then at least our way of life. Nature has attacked us with this virus. Nature, our adversary, is at fault.

Or maybe not. Or at least, not exactly.

The physical suffering (a range of horrifying symptoms including immense pain, kidney failure, limb amputations, suffocation and death), the economic calamity (maybe a second Great Depression), and the general disruption of just about everything, is all too real. The lesson we take from this catastrophe, however, could be one of warning about worse to come. This may be our last chance to change our relationship to nature before climate disruption, nuclear war (coming about in part as a result of change in fresh water availability), worse pandemics, and other unimaginable horrors overtake all that we have built (in all social realms) and much of how we self-identify as residents of civilization and the nature which has until now kindly hosted us.

COVID-19 in this perspective is not our adversary, but our ally to averting the much worse which is to come. Sheltering in place from heat storms, continental flash fires, famine and insecure or no access to fresh water is not possible. While clearly not our friend, the virus can be our teacher. The virus did not come out to get us; we went out to find it (even if inadvertently). We disrupted natural habitats giving the virus an opportunity (or perhaps no choice) but to seek a new host (us) when traditional hosts either were no longer available or no longer opportune. Our suffering pales compared to the animal and plant genocide/holocaust we are imposing on the planet’s other life forms.

I was reviewing my list of Generally True Patterns (detailed elsewhere in the radical natural history blog) trying to determine which ones might be most germane to our current predicament. Several of them; I will mention just four.

Major changes in a system can come suddenly. The gradualism theory of evolution in which events progress slowly has its place, but earth history from geology to extinction events to social/political revolutions show that speed overtakes the existing order on a regular basis.

A change in the environment of an area will be accompanied by a change in the population of that environment. The environment may be physical (fewer people going to tourist destinations), but it can be mental as well. Here is our opportunity or downfall depending on the choices we make: Recognizing ourselves as a part of nature of continuing to see nature as the enemy. (The virus is evil!)

The closer a system gets to equilibrium, the less resilient it becomes to any changes in the environment. In our century’s long addition to carbon fuels (coal, oil) we have achieved a comfortable equilibrium as all other aspects of the planet from animal species to beauty itself has been compromised. Our civilizations great collective mantra is: we cannot change, we will not change. But what happens when the natural environment really does change?

All systems are dynamic and evolving or in stasis and dying. The system known as world civilization faces a choice of learning from the current disaster, or ignoring the COVID warning and likely not surviving (in any recognizable form) coming disasters that will be magnitudes of awful greater than we are currently experiencing.

The current malicious virus will not kill all of us, but it might save us should we heed its lessons.

(Image above: a Bobcat took over our driveway once we mostly stopped driving to stay at home.)

 

Hammett, William James, Van Leeuwenhoek explain Trump Cult

If you are like me, you have been looking to Nick and Nora Charles to solve the mystery of the Trump cult-like popularity. The novelist Dashiell Hammett created the crime solving couple in the 1930s; they appeared in movies starring Myrna Loy and William Powell. I don’t know if Nick and Nora were familiar with psychologist William James or with optics scientist Van Leeuwenhoek, but those gentlemen also belong in this conversation.

Laura Snyder, Eye of the Beholder

The historian Laura Snyder published a book (in 2015) about the 17th century Dutch geniuses Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek and Johannes Vermeer. She combined optics and art history and much else. The kind of realism demonstrated by Vermeer’s work conveys a “sense of bouding, that make-believe space that feels real.” I don’t know about Dr. Snyder’s qualifications in political science, but I felt that, even if a different context, she could have been describing the current political situations in the U.S. or U.K.

I could not find bouding in Ralph Mayer’s A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, so perhaps nether Mayer nor Snyder will object overmuch to my borrowing the term, peculiar to the Dutch language until appropriated here. I have not found a better term than bouding to describe the Trump cult or its appendages such as climate change denial.

Snyder explains, “Dutch theorists and artists used the term bouding as a blanket term for the many strategies that could be combined to create a compelling mimetic or imitative picture.” Or fantasy, if you will.

Fantasy is harmless until it is not. It transforms to harmful when mistaken for reality: guns don’t kill people, worldwide temperature is not rising, women have no right to control their own bodies. Enter the Trump cult.

Snyder notes an important observation: “Van Leeuwenhoek realized that what one thinks he sees is related to what he wants to believe. Believing is seeing, sometimes.”

She confirms this with a reference to the work of William James who coined the phrase ‘will the believe,’ noting that “sometimes we convince ourselves to believe what we choose to believe, even without rational evidence; so to, it can be said, we sometimes will ourselves to see what we want to see, or what we are accustomed to seeing.” [William James, 1956, The Will to Believe: And Other Essays in Popular Philosophy {and} Human Immortality. Dover Publications.]

The Thin Man

Which brings me back to Hammett. In one scene, a police officer, speaking to Nick Charles, anticipates our current political situation by eighty-five years: “It’s a funny thing—I suppose you’ve noticed it—the people who lie the most are nearly always the clumsiest at it, and they’re easier to fool with lies than most people too.” [Ukrainian conspiracy theories anyone?] “You’d think they’d be on the look-out for lies, but they seem to be the very ones that will believe almost anything at all. I suppose you’ve noticed that, haven’t you?”

At a later point, Nick himself makes a similar observation: “Most people—even women—get discouraged after you’ve caught them in the third or fourth straight lie and fall back on either truth or silence, but not Mimi.” [A character in the novel. Substitute Trump’s name here.] “She keeps trying and you’ve got to be careful or you’ll find yourself believing her, not because she seems to be telling the truth, but simply because you’re tired of disbelieving her.”

I am in no way suggesting that Snyder or Hammett would endorse my positions of politics or the environment, but James, Van Leeuwenhoek, and Hammett bring important insight to contemporary times.

The above, as a Generally True Pattern: The vitality of any system depends on the free flow of information.

One more unsolved mystery: Why did Hammett write only one Thin Man mystery?

Animal IEDs

Wolf Bounty by Ernest Thompson Seton

Wolf Bounty by Ernest Thompson Seton

Sodium Cyanide

For those who believe that animals have no consciousness, that is, those who purport animals as non-sentient, animal cruelty cannot exist.

Historically, Theodore Roosevelt and John Burroughs were in that camp, and stayed there so as not to endanger trophy hunting. But that began to change when Ernest Thompson Seton argued the contrary (he passed the 73rd anniversary of his death a few days ago).

Not everyone got the Darwinian memo about animals as relations. Case in point: Intentional cruelty in the form of M44 devices. Wild Earth Guardians and others refer to them as poison bombs or cyanide bombs.

I would like to suggest Animal IEDs as a more graphic term. IEDs became all too familiar during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Targeted Indecency

Animal IEDs have a different target, often coyotes, but like their anti-personnel counterparts, anyone or anything getting too close comes to a bad end. Animal IEDs attract by scent, luring large wild predators, but also skunks, raccoons, foxes and dogs.

In human war, civilians and soldiers are killed indiscriminately. In our war on nature, all manner of curious or unlucky creatures, treated with the same insane disregard for life, meet the same end.

IEDs of both kinds represent an absence of simple morality and decency. I urge everyone to take action against these things. There are several groups leading the charge to ban these things once and for all.

And while we’re at it, all commercial animal trapping must be banned, from whales to foxes. The Middle Ages are over, we have no excuse to continue such practices.

 

 

Cthulhu, Morgoth, Trump, Explained

What Lovecraft saw. Posted on Wikipedia.

What Lovecraft saw. Posted on Wikipedia.

First, here’s my take: assigning the evil of the Trump era to Cthulhu and Morgoth seems entirely reasonable. This is a time when America has fallen into its most morally weak state. Actually, the only state possible under para-fascism. At our moment of greatest vulnerability, we are faced with certain environmental catastrophe, with America at its most morally weak state. (Thanks a lot Trump.)

Cthulhu (discovered by H.P. Lovecraft) and Morgoth (discovered by J.R.R. Tolkien) come from very different ideological places. I will use examples from my Generally True Patterns (GTP) to show that difference.

A thing becomes a thing following its move from an abstraction to a concrete reality or process (Chapter 8 GTP)

The origins of Cthulhu are obscure. It simply is and always has been. As a non-rational being, it has no motivation perceivable by us. But like measles, it is something one best get vaccinated against. Otherwise, look out. Its allies: people who convince you that prevention is your enemy and the disease unimportant. (Raison d’être #1 of the Trump administration.) Manifestation: white supremacists such as skinheads who particularly hate other white people.

Morgoth is rather more interesting. First for having a history, e.g. it was created as an Ainur, one of the first beings in existence. Also, it has motivation: wrecking havoc for the pure enjoyment of it. (Raison d’être #2 of the Trump administration.) Its allies: the Mob. It has a long rap sheet at the FBI, known as “Melko” on the street. Manifestation: Wahabbi jihadists.

Both of them start as enfolded potential—look out when they become unfolded reality.

All things, events, and processes arise in our perception from somewhere. (Chapter 2 GTP)

Morgoth is like “a cloud that cannot be seen or felt,” kind of like carbon monoxide. Pissed off since getting the stuffing knocked out of “him” at the end of the First Age, he reanimates out of our own perception generally, and out of need, specifically, by some among us. (As an aside, Morgoth got his comeuppance from Fionwë who was the General Dwight D. Eisenhower of the First Age and reputed to be a political moderate after the war.)

In the beginning Cthulhu “had shape…but that shape was not made of matter.” Whoa! A nihilist! For all that these creatures are like ether, and in most ways beyond our comprehension, when the form they take is what we define as evil, their presence or at least their influence can be perceived.

A change in the environment of an area will be accompanied by a change in the population of that environment (Chapter 6

An example of this is the increasing prevalence of flood-drought cycle disrupting the climate in previously stable areas. Existing life forms may be eliminated as the changed conditions create better conditions for new ones, or for returning ones in the case of Cthulhu.

So at a time and place of weakness, bad things find the opportunity to creep in. But all this is about symptoms, not causes, that is, Trump as symptom of things going wrong, not the cause. My guess is that Eärendel, wielding a disinfectant light known as a Silmaril, who chosen by the Ainur to guard the borders of our world from evil at the end of the First Age, has fallen down on the job. Low battery warning perhaps.

The above argument is proven by the fact that both Cthulhu and Morgoth have certainly returned. (Thanks a lot Trump: these beings are irresistibly attracted to moral weakness.)

By the way, I have heard that there is an evangelical-run museum somewhere maintaining that dinosaurs and cavemen inhabited the earth at the same time. Now that is ridiculous.

Be Somewhere Else Now

Dog Wisdom

Dog Wisdom

If Ram Dass  was still here, would re really be here now? Or would he be somewhere else? If here, he might be lonely. Being somewhere else might be safer. Over several years and with increasing frequency, environmental reports suggest the coming end of civilization (such as it is). See my Help Nature section for a range of reports from the Pentagon to United Nations on climate change, etc.

Bill McKibben in his new book Falter and in interviews suggests there is still hope to avoid complete catastrophe. But being here now myself, I am less certain.

Environmentalists vs. Deniers

Environmental groups continue their excellent work of convincing the already convinced about the trouble nature is in. Climate deniers and their Saint Ayn Rand still prefer the virtue of short-term selfishness over long term survival (at least if that survival requires socialist cooperation.)

If anyone can claim to be here now, it is the Deniers, at least based on who has political and social control. We are all victims of environmental destruction. We are all also perpetrators of it through consumption of everything from rare earth minerals to hamburgers, use of close dryers, the coming endless numbers of driverless cars that will soon swarm over the earth like locusts.

In my series on Generally True Patterns, the cornerstone of this site, I have stated that if we truly believed ourselves a part of nature, we would behave differently in our relation to the earth than as we do at present. The way we be here now is not working terribly well. Everyone participates in the destruction, either reluctantly out of necessity or joyfully out of whatever maliciousness motivates the Randians.

The Solution: Be Somewhere Else

The mind-set and moral change to a less consumptive, less destructive way of life is nowhere on the cultural or social horizon. Rather than continue to beat a dead world (so to speak), I am thinking that I should instead write about dog wisdom and post pictures of wildflowers and other lovely nature scenes to Facebook and Instagram.

Beyond documenting what is being lost, this won’t much help much but being somewhere else may hold more solace than being here (now).

Photo image: Luca the dog by David L. Witt

IPCC Climate Change Report

Sunset for Civilization

Sunset for Civilization

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has put out a monumental report. Ninety-one authors from 40 countries, plus 133 contributing authors, cited over 6,000 references, creating the Special Report on Global Warming of more than 700 pages in length. The results predict sunset for our civilization.

We have a decade or so to work on changing our anti-environment ways. But maybe we have no time left to gradually change. We must do so immediately in order to reach “net-zero” human-caused carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. Opposing this view, the British scientist Mayer Hill, among others, believe that achieving net-zero by mid-century will come much too late.

Whatever the timeline, every day during which CO2 does not diminish makes achieving net-zero more difficult to achieve. Making this worse is the increasing methane leakage from Artic permafrost, which will almost certainly require us to reach net-zero before 2050. (I experienced alarmingly hot Arctic conditions on my two trips to the far north.)

The IPCC report received scant attention from the major television news networks. The same networks refuse to acknowledge climate change in their hurricane news coverage. One could argue that the impending end of civilization deserved a bit more. But try convincing their commercial sponsors of that. (Parts of the print media have given better coverage to the issue.)

Would it be possible to mobilize against big-Carbon (or if you prefer, mobilize for net-zero) in the way we did for World War II? Back then, our way of life was at stake. Now, it is our lives that are on the line. And if so, who might lead us to net-zero?

The prevailing political conservatism is hostile to anything that might be anti-capitalism and even more so when internationalism is involved. If you believe with President Reagan that government is the problem or with President Trump that globalism is the problem, then pro-environment mobilization by all the world’s governments becomes an impossibility. IPCC is for them just another example of a world government agency run amok.

This is not trivial: the very psychological identity of the conservative is at risk. You can’t admit the existence of global climate change when your entire being is based on an ideology of anti-domestic big government and opposition to international bodies infringing upon national sovereignty.

American liberalism, in its current pro-Corporate incarnation (President Clinton’s contribution), is no less destructive to the environment. Liberal flirtation with identity politics doesn’t help, because “Nature,” as an identity in and off itself does not find a home in that worldview.

Free market capitalism (North America, Western Europe, etc.) and state sponsored capitalism (China, etc.) believe only in resource extraction for economic growth, in contradiction to the laws of biology. Our prosperity comes at the expense of all the other life forms on the planet.

Theological concerns largely center on human-to-God issues without recognizing Nature as a part of the mix.

We all have our political, religious, national, ethnic, gender identities. Have many of us identify first of all with nature itself? Narcissism is triumphant: we won’t/can’t give up our identities even if it kills us.

Modern civilization’s great political philosophers such as John Locke, Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and John Stuart Mill did not prepare us for a challenge of this magnitude. Our great naturalist philosophers including Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and Ernest Thompson Seton demonstrated insight into our relationship with nature, but neither did they prepare us for what to do next in our current situation.

The IPCC report on climate disruption is just the most recent; similar ones show up every few months only to be subsumed into the larger news flow of political scandals, natural disasters, celebrity shenanigans, etc. For their part, IPCC and other scientists suggest technical solutions, but the mindset needed to move us toward a net-zero ideology won’t come from them either.

We are awaiting neither left-wing nor right-wing leaders, not technical or social engineers, but instead, the rise of consciousness-raising moralists. Maybe a Gandhi or King or Mandela for Nature will show up. We need them soon.

This is non-gradual diminishment.

Gradual Diminishment

Devisadero stone chairs

Devisadero stone chairs

 

Around a half-century ago, unknown persons built two stone chairs at the summit of Devisadero Peak. The chairs on this 2500-meter foothill east of Taos, New Mexico were a favored destination for resident hikers and visitors. They became part of the natural and historic landscape. Huddled together, on each, seat height above the ground was not far. Single rock slabs formed high backs, tipped at a slight angle from vertical. (More recently a few more rocks were piled up beside the chairs.)

The homemade land art were old friends providing a degree of comfort and sense of reward for those having achieved the summit. In their destruction this past spring, they became martyrs of conscious loss: the policy to diminish, extirpate, or eliminate something.

When this policy is implemented by the destruction of just one thing at a time, this form of loss becomes an example of gradual diminishment. Pointless dismantling of larger scale things—species, ecosystems, democracies—operates on the same principle at the small scale of rustic furniture. At any scale, gradual diminishment results in a loss of meaning.

For unknown reasons, this past spring, the management of Carson National Forest felt that dismantling the chairs was an important use of scarce taxpayer money. The rocky remains of the corpse chairs were scattered across what little un-trampled native vegetation remained at the summit. A Carson Forest official assured me that the chairs were not “significant.”

Not significant to whom?

Increasingly, our natural and historical heritage is seen as not significant. An endangered species here, a riparian area there, a modest structure on a minor mountain, all can disappear and what does it matter? As things (and creatures) of beauty disappear no more than one at a time we hardly notice. As one lovely thing or place is removed from our national lands, we can make the case that the loss of that particular one thing is not important.

The insidiousness of gradual diminishment arises from its pace (slow, local) and its placement (separated localities). It becomes conscious loss when it is the result of intended policies. It is a loss of meaning, in this case, the loss of a relationship of a particular structure to the land, and of the structure in the perception of its visitors as a naturalized monument that for many defined a particular place.

Gradual diminishment demonstrates a tangled and awful mindset that allows, one by one, much that is valuable to be officially vandalized, or neglected, or to disappear altogether. Added up, the loss of one thing at a time eventually becomes tragic. What happened? Where did it all go? Why didn’t we say something when each of us noticed that one thing that was important, even if, as in the case of the stone chairs, it was a small thing?

Generally True Pattern: We and everything are connected.

Ernest Thompson Seton Web Site

Ernest Thompson Seton

Ernest Thompson Seton

My exploration of generally true patterns was inspired by a number of sources. Among the most important was Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946). A self-described “artist-naturalist,” Seton was a master wilderness explorer, educator and and social innovator.

His interests included an impressive array of subjects from history to art, from nature to childhood development, from sign language to world peace.

In my 2010 book about him, I wrote about his importance to the 20th century. He co-founded the wildlife conservation and worldwide Scouting movements. He helped lay the groundwork for radical environmentalism.

As a scientist, he published important works on birds and mammals, and established important concepts in ecology and ethology (animal behavior). He emerged by the early 1890s as the most important wildlife artist of his time. By the end of the decade he established himself as one of the best-selling authors of his generation.

Change Agent

Perhaps most significantly, he changed the consciousness of Western Civilization about the nature of animals. He rejected the Cartesian model of animals as mechanical things. Like Darwin (whose books he read) and Native Americans (with whom he lived and studied) he saw animals as our relations. Logically following from that premise was our moral responsibility to look after these relatives through the conservation movement. And to teach youth about all this through Scouting and his own Woodcraft League.

Seton is a good fit for this radical natural history blog, but a large enough historical subject for me to require a separate blog on the history, art and writings of Ernest Thompson Seton.

This new blog is part of the Seton Legacy Project, a program of the Academy for the Love of  Learning in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We will open a new exhibition on August 12 this year, Lobo, King of Currumpaw. Accompanied by a graphic novel of the same name, it is the story of a historical wolf who lived in New Mexico in 1894. Pursued by Seton, Lobo represents a larger narrative about our relationship to nature. Get a free e-book with this story from Project Gutenberg.

The essays on my Seton blog will cover his life, his beliefs, and his influence. Please visit and   share the word.

 

Generally True Patterns #22

Waterfall, Wheeler Wilderness, New Mexico

Waterfall, Wheeler Wilderness, New Mexico

Generally True Patterns: A New Natural History of Recognizing Ourselves as a Part of Nature

 

 

 

 

Part 22 of 22

 

Generally True Patterns by Chapter (what it all comes to)

 

I am aware of the complexity of my argument, and of the shortcomings inherent in its formal presentation as a philosophical thought problem. John Muir, Ernest Thompson Seton, Aldo Leopold, and Loren Eisley (more examples might be given) have made exactly the same points with an eloquence of beauty I can more admire than emulate. In my defense, I can only claim that each of must contribute what we can under the dire circumstances in which we find ourselves.

As I know from my studies of art history, the greatest and most original artists, no matter how radical their innovations, have built their accomplishments on what they learned from those preceding them. In this final section I offer first a restating in one place of the generally true patterns I have identified, followed by a glossary of terms I have introduced (I hope in the name of clarity), and a list of some of the more influential authors (but by no means all the authors) whose works I have called upon to support my structuring of the three realm examples that forms the model for generally true patterns.

1) Nature is characterized by generally true patterns: things, events, and processes that work in the same way across physical, biological, and social systems. An overriding pattern is that all actions have consequences. This implies that what we do in the world matters, yet too often our behavior is contrary to this pattern.

2) Nature in its three realms is about relationships. Nothing is one thing alone. Relationships evolve over time. All things, events and processes arise in our perceptions from somewhere. A thing becomes a thing following its move from an abstraction to a concrete reality or actual process of something. Realized outcomes of things, events, and processes are both deterministic and unpredictable. All things, events, and processes of the entirety change and evolve; the processes of reality are always in motion, regardless of time scale.

3) In any situation, as energy dissipates, the very occurrence of that dissipation creates disruptions. Energy moves through all systems. Instability within a system leads to change.

4) Everywhere we look in nature, we find a primacy of change. All situations of things, events, processes, and organizations exhibit motion and change. There is no situation of unchanging condition.

5) In trying to find meaning, we must look at relationships and the entirety. Change compounds change. Each emergent state includes the properties of the previous stages. As things, events, and processes evolve, so also all the relationships among them.

6) Patterns describe potential, generally rather than precisely. All agents within all systems operate with some degree of imprecision. All systems change and evolve over time. All systems of the three realms are ultimately, even if distantly, connected to all other systems. A functional system is one in which the inflow of energy is sufficient to maintain its operations. The vitality of any system depends on the free flow of information. As organizations (social, biological, physical) increase in size and complexity, differentiation occurs. Information (or energy) does not move in a vacuum but through an already occupied space. Information exhibits the quality of continuance over time. All production is associated with certain costs.

Major changes in a system can come suddenly. A change in the environment of an area will be accompanied by a change in the population of that environment. Reciprocity is inevitable. Systems must be built through the necessary developmental stages. Evolution is a constant in nature. Longevity is subject to limitations. Agents, acting separately or collectively, claim a portion of physical space as their own. The closer a system gets to equilibrium, the less resilient it becomes to any changes in the environment; All systems are dynamic and evolving or in stasis and dying. Change compounds.

Systems follow natural processes of renewal to maintain themselves, including the ability to evolve into a different form. Aspects of existence are a collection of malleable properties rather than a set singularity. Energy moves through all systems. Structures of organization are systems of signals expressed in the form of energy, matter, and information in physical and cognitive systems. Organizational structures adapt to fit needs (or events or situations) as need arises.

An alteration or change in an agent or entity can send permutations through a system. Systems develop where movement of energy pushes the system to the edge of chaos, the place where creativity and adaptation to changing conditions takes place. Diminishment of energy into a system leads the organizational structure to resemble a closed system. A net gain of energy input is needed to maintain any system over time without running down.

7) Wild-nature pattern lessons are about transformation, including loss. Systems follow natural processes of change to maintain or transform into a different form. Aspects of existence are a collection of malleable properties rather than a set singularity.

8) We and everything are connected.

Glossary of Terms and Concepts Related to Generally True Patterns

Basic: parts of the entirety showing less inclusion of other parts of the entirety, e.g. atoms are more basic than molecules; the more basic parts are more independent of other parts.

Conscious loss: the policy to diminish, extirpate, or eliminate something.

Forms of conversion: processes whereby the movement of energy restructures a system into a new form.

Generally true patterns: things, events, and processes that work in the same way across physical, biological, and social systems.

Increasing inclusion: the idea of changing, compounding relationship over time.

Person/nature split: the misconception of human separateness from nature, based on a perception of loss or exclusion. Contrast with person/nature connection, perception of relationship with nature based on inclusion.

Potential: the enfolded form of a generally true pattern that exists across the three realms.

Principal: parts of the entirety that are more inclusive of other parts, e.g., consciousness; the more principal parts are more dependent on other parts.

Process integration: nature explained in terms of nonlinear and emergent properties arising from the actions of many agents—the means of connection of aggregates is usually more important than any one individual or individual event, although an aggregate is composed of individual events. The operations of process integration have been explored in complexity science and systems theories.

Realized: the unfolded form of a pattern manifested as a specific thing, process, or event in just one realm which, connected to related instances in other realms, comprises a generally true pattern; an individuality may also be termed an example of specific separateness.

Static constancy: a belief holding that things, events, and processes exist largely outside of time and are for all practical purposes, changeless.

Three realms: Our universe consists of three realms accessible by sensory means: the physical realm represented by the reductive sciences of physics and chemistry that includes classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and relativity. The second is the biological realm of all living things organized on an ecological model. The third is a special case of the second, basically, us, called by various names, but summarized as the social realm.

Further Reading

A conventional bibliography is not useful here since the literature on subjects covered is overwhelmingly vast. I will limit source citing to authors specifically mentioned in the text.

Bateson, Gregory. A Sacred Unity, Further Steps to an Ecology of Mind.New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991.

Bohm, David. Wholeness and the Implicate Order.New York: Routledge, 1980.

Cleary, Thomas (trans. And ed.). The Essential Tao: An Initiation into the Heart of Taoism Through the Authentic Tao Te Ching and the Inner Teachings of Chuang-tzu.Edison: Castle Books, 1998.

Cooper, James Fenimore. The Last of the Mohicans, (1826) in The Leatherstocking Tales, Vol. I. New York: Library of America.

Davenport, Guy. Herakleitos and Diogenes.San Francisco: Grey Fox Press, 1976.

Evernden, Neil. The Natural Alien: Humankind and Environment.Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985.

Gould, Stephen Jay and Niles Eldredge. “Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phylogenetic gradualism” inModels of Paleobiology. San Francisco: Freeman, Cooper, 1972.

Lovejoy, Arthur O. The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea.Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1936, 1964.

Orff, Carl. Carmina Burana.RCA Victor album, 1992.

Pirsig, Robert. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.New York: Bantam Books, 1974.

Prigogine, Ilya. The End of Certainty, Time, Chaos, and the New Laws of Nature.New York: The Free Press, 1996.

Roszak, Theodore. The Voice of the Earth, An Exploration of Ecopsychology.New York: Touchstone, 1992

Tennyson, Lord Alfred. Idylls of the King1859.

Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality (Gifford Lectures Delivered in the University of Edinburgh During the Session 1927-28).New York: Simon & Schuster, 1979.

von Bertalanffy, Ludwig. General Systems Theory.New York: George Braziller, 1968.

Wilber, Ken. Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, The Spirit of Evolution. Boston: Shambhala, 1995.

This ends the 22 part series on Generally True Patterns

Generally True Patterns #21

Summit Knob, 12,728', Wheeler Wilderness, New Mexico

Summit Knob, 12,728′, Wheeler Wilderness, New Mexico

Generally True Patters: A New Natural History of Recognizing Ourselves as a Part of Nature

 

 

 

Part 21 of 22

 

Chapter 8 Inclusion (patterns)

Three of us were finishing lunch at the most popular restaurant in town. A fireplace just behind gave the kind of meaningful heat that provides warmth to more than just the body on a day when a blizzard rages outside. We watched the mounting snow level when a Swallowtail butterfly (genus Papilio) chose that moment to complete its metamorphosis and emerge from the purse of my guest just arrived from California. It had sulfur-yellow wings marked with four stripes of calligraphy on each side that were outlined in black across the bottom. The little creature pupated between California and New Mexico in time to arrive, wings still wet and unfolding, as the visual dessert to our meal. Its means of entry into the purse remained mysterious. But ultimately, a manifestation of the idea of a generally true pattern.

Now, as part of our lives in an unsuitable environment, I could do no more than take it home and release it to the relative hospitality of my house. It fluttered about for two days before dying. From the Papilio perspective, its mission in the world remained unfulfilled. We however were filled with wonder for two days by this demonstration of forms of conversion whereby the movement of energy restructures a system. It also demonstrated two generally true patterns:

A thing becomes a thing following its move from an abstraction to a concrete reality or process.

And:

Realized outcomes of things, events, and processes are both deterministic and unpredictable.

We are surrounded by manifestations of generally true patterns. Recognition of them could lead to an ideology of inclusion to replace the current one of loss and person/nature disconnection. The momentum towards loss is ascendant, but is there is hope for metamorphosis? Can we accept the pattern: Nothing is one thing alone. All systems of the three realms are connected (even if distantly). The generally true pattern, change compounds, is, like all patterns, one we cannot wish away just because of the inconvenience of that recognition. The heart of the person/nature split is the denial of three-realm consequences. Social experiments in biology (species elimination and forced behavioral changes such as animals changing from diurnal to nocturnal foraging) and physics (change in atmospheric composition leading to deterioration of Antarctic ice shelves) push all systems into chaotic change. The biological and physical conditions contemporary with the rise of civilization were mostly favorable to us. There is, however, no rational argument showing benefit to civilization from the destruction of pure air, clean water, or fertile wild and agricultural land. The ideology of loss as the pathway to gain finds no support in the natural world.

If morality can arise from physical laws of the universe, it may manifest as an ethics of relationship recognition where inclusion is given higher value than loss. The libertarian ideal of a virtue of selfishness values both loss and exclusion, an expression of the highest immorality under the inclusive laws of nature. This immorality of loss becomes all the more vivid if an argument is made for acting in self-interest alone by worshiping the falsehood of separation. Preservation of the air we breathe, water we drink, land and seas we live upon (with all their attendant creatures), cultures we interact with (even if not our own, having wisdom to share) is an essential act of individual and civilizational survival. Generally true patterns show the impossibility of separation of the social from the biological and physical realms. Violations of pattern rules by pretending that they do not exist (belief in non-consequence of actions) become actions that can fairly be described as immoral.

The separation thinking of the Great Chain of Being remains an active a force in our lives leading to the creation of false hierarchies. The pattern recognition of inclusion recognizes other species and cultures, land, sea and air environments as boundary-less vis-à-vis us as individuals and members of societies. Our concept of morality must be extended to include the undeniable existence of relationships. Pattern recognition is imminently practical. Since we are of nature, we must work within its rules or face gradual or swift decline.

The generally true patterns, those listed in these essays as well as others which will be identified, are straightforward. The practice of pattern recognition at first appears difficult since the presence of multiple interacting simple rules is the font of complexity. That something can be both certain and imprecise, deterministic and unpredictable, specifically different but generally true, challenges us to the limits of our perceptive abilities, but consider this as a measure of probability: You don’t always have to be entirely precise (absolutely true) when being somewhat precise (generally true) has a higher likelihood of achieving the correct answer. Think of shooting at a target bull’s-eye with a rifle. Using precise control methods (a steady arm, a calculated aim) leads to one of two results: exact target contact or complete miss. By contrast, firing at the target with an imprecise weapon such as a shotgun leads to two slightly altered results: the near certainty that most of the pellets will miss the target and the relatively certainty that at least one or more may well strike the targeted area. Since systems are continuous through time and space, the imprecision of the generally true will fit more cases than the precision of one specific case. Bertrand Russell showed that such uncertainty in mathematical calculations operates with vague but real logic.

While many machines and calculations do require exact precision, most of what we encounter in the course of a day—running a project, acting within an organization, or coping with our private lives—is inherently imprecise, especially when judged by our ability to predict exact outcomes of particular actions. Precise, linear thinking may lead to the right decision by chance, but application of generally true rules will arrive at a near-correct answer more often. But what is the nature of “generally true” itself?

Ludwig von Bertalanffy in his General Systems Theory postulated the existence of “isomorphisms” or similarities of organizational structures in different systems. His purpose in systems research was to identify the underlying mechanisms of affiliation. He recognized the loss of reverence for the living world. We kill ourselves as we kill nature, but how do we internalize this message of the world as a single organization? How do we push beyond the edge of problem-recognition into that place where problem-solution is actively sought? Where do we find the edge of the person/nature split? It is not an exact place but rather one whose edge is always in motion. A few years after the compilation of Bertalanffy’s work, another writer in applied relational thinking, Robert Pirsig, observed that the frequent recurrence of a fact has greater usefulness than one that is rare. For him, similarities and differences were less important than “the recognition of likenesses hidden under apparent divergences. Particular rules seem at first discordant, but looking more closely we see in general that they resemble each other; different as to matter, they are alike as to form, as to the order of their parts.”

Generally true should not be read as forever true since what is general may change in its substance over the course of evolution and will certainly change over the shorter run of our perceptions of it. The organization of the universe and all its components may have an ultimate form, but even if so, it is unknown to us. We impose organizational concepts to make sense of the entirety. These concepts change in our reckoning as a result of developments in science, philosophy, and attitudes. Nonetheless, by not going beyond the fixed points of reductionist thinking, we limit the sense of meaning that can be derived from a broader view.

The concept of generally true patterns can be misused (accidentally or intentionally) if not collaborated by actual (not false) three-realm examples. There are infinite choice/decision, if/then bifurcations in the ongoing history of any system, so any one outcome may not be predicable in advance, although in hindsight the outcome sometimes may be analyzed to find out which bifurcation seemed to lead to that outcome. Bifurcations appear as indeterminism or chance as small changes become amplified into large emergent outcomes. The unfolding generally true patterns provide order to apparent randomness:

In terms of outcomes of situations, there are not infinite possibilities; there is instead one possible, unknown outcome.

A generally true pattern is something like a wave, a phenomenon of flow, until it breaks upon our beach and we can experience its existence as a concrete thing, event, or process. While a pattern is generally the same in the three realms, its specific existence as a concrete fact in the physical realm is not exactly the same thing as its manifestation in the world of biology or in a social system (each individual occurrence, an example of specific separateness). Each individual example presented to establish the existence of a generally true pattern is true only in its own case and not in every case. An individual example illustrating a pattern is specific only to a physical system, a living system, or a social system but does not cross boundaries. However, when these specific examples are taken as an aggregate, they do define a generally true pattern that is true across the whole range of nature. The larger issue concerns the ways in which we might interpret the signals (information, data, etc.) found in nature in a coherent way.

There is no one approach to finding the generally true patterns, but since all parts of the entirety are ultimately (even if distantly or mysteriously) tied to all other parts, our application has the goal of explaining observations in a useful way. This method of building models from the observation of nature credits both the linear, reductive approach and the systems approach of examining multidimensional interrelationship processes. Consideration of generally true patterns does not need to achieve absolute certainty, but instead, “appropriateness” (Laszlo’s term) in the search for meaning within unfolding potentialities.

My observation of nature is that events and processes give the appearance of reoccurring through physical and living systems in such a way that they can be said to be generally true. Patterns operate in our perception as inter-connecting systems and can be interpreted across the three realms. We can establish the existence of these patterns by identifying specific examples. We can draw lessons from the patterns assuming that what is generally true for the rest of nature is also true for human beings. This knowledge can be used for problem solving by leaders in organizations and by individuals in their personal lives. Living in accordance with the patterns can be applied by all of us in our relationship with nature, as a denial of separateness, and as proof that the relationship is ultimately with ourselves. There is no other.

Postscriptum: Long ago, on a visit to White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, I experienced a manifestation of imprecision and inclusion in the form of a visual pattern. Here I borrow terms from art history. The clouded overcast sky and the vast array of sand dunes had taken on the same value, that is, the gray lightness of air and land were exactly the same. As a result, what is called the vanishing point (the horizon where parallel lines meet) had itself vanished. Perspective ceased to have meaning so that near and far could not be distinguished nor could the up and down of elevation. The difference between a meter or one hundred meters and a kilometer could not be ascertained by the eye although, beneath the clouds, the air was entirely clear. A step down could give an unpleasant jolt because the ground level had not changed, or it could send one unexpectedly tumbling. Lateral distance and elevation change became the same in my mind only since, in the physical realm, nothing had changed. My connection to the desert was absolute in a weird kind of inescapable oneness, disconcerting inclusion, imprecision of depth perception, visual illusion overriding physical certainty. It could have been a lonely spot, but instead the desert had enveloped me, unfolded its potential to amaze by erasing and at the same time enhancing its essence. For a little while I was fully included.

Next essay: Generally True Patterns by Chapter